Baxter Black: Cold Feet
Yer lookin’ at a feller with no tennis shoes, a ’76 GMC pickup, an outhouse and a learning permit for a cell phone. But! Lest you lump me into that group of stodgy ol’ dinosaurs that cling to the days of Garth Brooks, pygmy Angus, and real spare tires…Let me assure you that I have stepped boldly into the modern world of manly footwear.
A constant recurring memory of workin’ cows when I first started years ago was cold feet. Everybody wore their regular regulation cowboy boots with five-buckle overshoes. And everybody’s feet got cold.
It was a common practice to scrape the snow and scatter straw around the chute where we were gonna be standin’ all day. We’d keep a pickup runnin’ with bottles of Vitamin A on the dash defroster to alternate when the cold turned it thick as axle grease.
We weren’t above buildin’ a fire near by to slip up to when our fingers turned to frozen hot dogs. I’d stand by the flame ‘til the rubber on my overshoes started steamin’ and my toes tingled. But today things are different. Cowboys have benefited from NASA and the hi-tech ski clothing industry. I go outside on a beautiful 20° mornin’ and spend all day in my insulated coveralls and moon boots. Wonderful waterproof moon boots with hard rubber soles and hard rubber toes. Step on me, drop anvils on my feet, stand me in one place for an hour and my toes are still toasty and safe. They are an invention as radical as round bales, insecticide ear tags and affirmative action.
Alas, Leroy was still stuck in the five-buckle Dark Ages that late November when he and Tom completed the last circle on Yankee Bill summit lookin’ for stragglers. Four hours horseback in the Idaho Klondike had turned their feet to fudgesickles. They rode up to the last gate and Leroy dismounted to let ‘em through. The latch post was buttressed with big rocks. When he undid the wire gate, a twenty pounder slid off the pile and landed on Leroy’s foot.
Never one to endure pain silently, he thrashed around and fell in the snow crying, “My toe’s broke! My toe’s broke!”
“Take off yer boot quick,” instructed Tom, “Or it’ll swell!”
“But it’ll freeze,” whined Leroy.
“It’s that or gangrene,” said Tom solemnly.
“I can’t ride back to camp barefooted,” he complained, “It’s still a mile away.”
“Fill yer overshoe with snow and put it back on. It’ll keep the swelling down,” suggested Tom.
Leroy stood on one leg holding his manly footwear and looked up at Tom, who never cracked a smile.
When Leroy and Tom hit camp, we helped Leroy off his horse, drained the ice water out of his overshoe and took him inside. I don’t know the medical terminology they used to describe the condition of his foot in those days, but we all agreed…it was blue.